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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Juvenile facility director: Linn County hasn't been represented

By Charlene Sims, info@linncountyjournal.com


MOUND CITY – Earlier this year, Linn County dropped out of the Southeast Kansas Regional Juvenile Justice Center (SEKRJDC) consortium after Commissioner Danny McCullough suggested that the county could get as good a service from other juvenile detention facilities at a cost less than the $62,000 the county was expected to pay SEKRJDC this year.


Member counties include Allen, Bourbon, Chautauqua, Cherokee, Crawford, Labette, Montgomery, Neosho, Wilson, and Woodson counties.


Linn County spent nearly $73,200 in 2018, however, that budget dropped to $58,000 for 2023. In 2022, Linn County had used the facility for a total of 56 days, according to some background information former County Counselor Gary Thompson gave to commissioners in 2022.


Fellow commissioners followed McCullough's lead, likely because McCullough has been the county's representative to the SEKRJDC's board since July 2022.


However, Michael Walden, executive director SEKRJDC, said during an interview that no one representing Linn County, including McCullough, has attended a board meeting since 2011.


Walden said that Linn County Sheriff Kevin Friend visited the facility in January 2023 and a deputy might have visited there at one time.


During the interview, Walden pointed out the importance of belonging to this interlocal community is that Linn County youth, ages 10 through 17, are guaranteed a bed and care at the facility.


He said that the SEKRJDC is very fortunate to have a full staff unlike many other facilities across the state. He said that other detention centers, for example, Johnson County, have agreements to send their youth to other facilities when they are understaffed. SEKRJDC has no problem with staffing and in fact take youth from across the state when other facilities are short-staffed.


Walden said that the facility is now partnered with the local mental health center, Crawford County, so that a baseline on behavior and mental health can be established for each resident and that is put into a plan. He said that they also connect with mental health centers in the communities that the youth go to after leaving the facility.


Walden compared the detention center to a fire department, you never want to have to use it but it is there to be used when needed.


He said that SEKRJDC had a strong board of directors from a variety of backgrounds  and that he meets regularly with other detention facility directors across the state.


He is concerned that Linn County is dropping out of the group after a 30 year investment. No other counties have dropped out of the program.  He explained that the cost per year varies and 50% of the membership is based on the average number of beds used in the last four years and the other 50% is based on the taxation and valuation of the county served.


During the 2022 meeting with commissioners, Thompson told the commissioners that, of the 11 counties, three paid less than Linn County and the rest contributed more.


Walden met with the Linn County Commissioners on Monday, June 24, in regards to the letter that Linn County sent canceling the county’s membership in the interlocal agreement. 


He told them that Linn County has had an agreement with the juvenile facility since its inception in 1994.


Following a decision made by the commission earlier this year former County Counselor Mark Hagen sent a letter to the agency canceling Linn County’s participation in the facility. Hagen had researched other county facilities and found that Douglas County would take youth on a day-by-day basis.


At the June 3 meeting, Hagen said he would send paperwork to Douglas and Johnson counties so Linn County offenders could go to those facilities on a day-by-day basis.


Walden asked that someone from Linn County come visit facility in Girard and attend the board meeting on July 23 at 6 p.m.


“I was really hoping that after I spoke last year that we would have a little more interaction, but I haven’t had a representative come to the facility or tour the facility,” said Walden. “I think that would be really important. I know you guys put mill levies in place for the funding of the facility when it was founded and things of that nature. 


“We work for you guys. I mean we are part of Linn County. I know it’s not in Linn County but we are just a part of you guys as we are Crawford or any other county. I would encourage you if you want your voice to be heard to be there. I think its important for your concerns to be heard from your representative.”

 

                                                         



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